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Finance chief hits back over opposition criticism
THE man in charge of Cheshire East’s finances has hit back at criticism of the authority by two opposition councillors after a report was issued into the council’s management of its money.
In last week’s Guardian Labour councillors David Newton and Sam Corcoran criticised the council’s leadership over the findings in the report published by auditors Grant Thornton.
They said the report highlighted the council had ‘failed to understand costs and procure goods’ for the second year running.
Clr Peter Raynes, member for Knutsford and head of the finance portfolio, told the Guardian the auditors had actually praised the authority at a meeting attended by councillors from all parties.
“Given the clear message from the auditors – that our finances were in good order and our new processes met their requirements – it is disappointing to see the Labour Group taking a few comments from a 70-page report out of context to manufacture negative headlines,” he said.
“As the Labour Group were present at the Audit and Governance meeting to hear first-hand the auditors comments on our finances it makes such statements even more surprising.
“This is a very positive report on the healthy state of the council’s management of its finances during a tough economic climate and big changes in how we are managing and delivering services.
“We take seriously the issues raised by the auditors about some internal processes. However, these have not affected the overall value for money we provide for our residents.”
The auditors said the council finished the year with a slight underspend to its budget, having added £7.5 million to its reserves.
The report by Grant Thornton said they were ‘satisfied that in all significant respects the council put in place proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources’.
Clr Raynes added: “This council is prioritising spending money where its residents want it to be spent, such as repairing more than 54,000 potholes so far this year and resurfacing more than 60 miles of Cheshire East roads.
“Investment in our waste collection service has also seen us achieve record levels of customer satisfaction of around 93 per cent.
“We have been vigorously following up the plan, developed between the council and the auditors, to deliver improvements in those areas highlighted. The plans were completed in early 2013. It has been a challenging year, but to have maintained the quality and timeliness of financial information is a significant achievement of which the council should be proud.”
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